Sir David Wilkie's The Blind Fiddler, described by the Tate Gallery as "the antithesis of [Sir Joshua] Reynold's 'great style,'" possesses numerous qualities that contradict the stylistic principles of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Wilkie depicts ten lower-class individuals within a humble setting surrounded by a disorganized array of household goods. While the PRB often painted such modest subject matter, the Brotherhood used different techniques for composition and color. Wilkie uses a direct light source from the right hand side of the canvas, which enlivens only that portion of the work and prompts the recession of the darker corners of the piece. In contrast, the PRB opted for more even lighting and universally vibrant colors. Not only the lighting, but also the composition of Wilkie's piece creates a strong illusion of depth that most Pre-Raphaelite works lacked. The piece possesses three horizontal planes -- a foreground with a stool, watering pot and scattered food items, a mid-ground with figures, and a background with dark walls and cabinets. The PRB rebelled against such carefully crafted compositions, opting instead to depict more natural and realistic scenes.

Questions

1. Does this piece possess any symbolic character? How might a Pre-Raphaelite interpret the people and objects within the painting?

2. How did Wilkie choose his light source? Is there a particular reason why the woman and child are highlighted?

3. How does the placement of the two fiddlers affect the painting's composition?

4. How do the figures relate to one another within the piece? Is the composition balanced? What might the PRB say about the way the arrangement of the figures and objects?


Victorian Web Visual Arts Painting Discussion Questions

Last modified 12 September 2004